Trauma Bonding & the Narcissist – Nobody Does it Better!

emotional-rollar-coasterFeeling attached to a narcissist or sociopath even though he treats us badly is a constant source of angst for those in recovery from toxic relationships. Victims want to know why…why can’t I just let go of this guy? Why can’t I move on? Why am I obsessed with no closure? Why do I feel so connected to someone who feels no connection to me? One logical answer to this is that we’re normal and they’re not and normal people want to fix things that are broken so that they work again.

The problem, of course, is that a narcissist can’t be fixed because he was never right to begin with. In essence, the narcissist isn’t really broken at all. He simply is what he is and what he is is no good. This being true, what do we do, after a Discard, when we can’t shake the feeling of being only ½ a person without him…of feeling utterly attached even when we’re apart and even when he’s with someone else? Why can’t we disconnect from the Bad Man? Well, there is an answer to this for those who seek a deeper psychological reason for the suffering and it’s a condition often referred to as trauma bonding.

Click Here to Download When Love Is a Lie
from Amazon Today – $3.99

When we think of trauma bonding, we typically associate it with The Stockholm Syndrome (TSS) – a condition named after a real-life situation where a group of hostages became emotionally attached to their kidnapers. TSS, however, although certainly similar to trauma bonding, typically occurs in life-threatening situations where the victim is literally in fear of dying at the hands of her toxic, abusive partner. Trauma bonding is more descriptive of the attachment dilemma that occurs from the type of trauma caused to our emotions (i.e. betrayal and neglect, over and over and over). It’s the type of bonding that can easily occur via passive-aggressive manipulation (i.e. sex, lies, silent treatments) and other forms of narcissistic control.

When-love-is-a-lie
Click Image to Order via Amazon

The narcissist partner, as cunning as he or she is, understands the process for streamlining a victim’s codependency to point of least resistance. He has actually figured out – without a single day of formal training – that the best way to ensure narcissistic supply is to create trauma bonds with his targets via the method of “seduce and discard”.  He has figured out an easy way to turn us into a narcissist’s enabler.

The conditioning that leads to trauma bonding focuses on two powerful sources of reinforcement recurring in succession over and over and at perfectly timed intervals. Psychologists call this reinforcement the ‘arousal-jag’ which actually refers to the excitement before the trauma (arousal) and the peace of surrender afterwards (jag). Take a second to reflect on the narcissist’s behaviors. Creating trauma bonds is what he’s been doing his whole life!

‘Arousal-jag’ reinforcement is all about giving a little and then taking it away over and over and over in well timed intervals. Narcissists do this all the time (disappearing/reappearing, silence/chaos) whereby creating an illusion of twisted excitement that reinforces the traumatic bond between us and them. And to be clear, the narcissist feels a connection here as well only his connection is to the excitement alone and not to us. This is why a narcissist always has multiple partners because it doubles and triples his excitement factor. The fact that we – as his victims – become so attached to the chaos that we’ll eagerly await a hoover is quite an added bonus!

Are you getting it yet??

The excitement before the trauma (of betrayal and neglect) is created during the devalue stage…that point in time right before a discard when our intuition has already told us he’s going to leave based on his behaviors. It’s that knot-in-the-stomach feeling, the overwhelming urge to call his phone 100 times, the torment of cognitive dissonance…. it’s the hours spent scouring the internet looking for clues…it’s the feeling we get from the chaos that a narcissist ALWAYS creates right before the silence. Like it or not, we become highly addicted to his narcissistic behaviors and all of the nonsense that goes with it… and we miss it like a motherfucker when it’s gone…when, suddenly, the narcissist goes silent. We long for the connection – as manipulated and fabricated as it is – until we can barely breathe. Then, right before we either kill ourselves or come to our senses, in swoops the narcissist once again – like a Phoenix rising – to give us the second reinforcement: the peace of surrender that happens afterwards. His reappearance is meticulously timed for maximum effect and usually follows a silent treatment that has lasted just a tad longer than the one before. The narcissist is conditioning us to accept less and less so he can get away with more each time he vanishes.

Either way, this second dose of reinforcement – the peace of surrender – is absolutely heaven! Again, it’s an addiction – to the narcissist and the make-up sex, to the vanishing of our anxiety, and to the feeling of calmness and euphoria we get from knowing that, once again, we’ve been given a reprieve to breathe until the cycle repeats again. Seduce and discard…seduce and discard…till the end of all fucking time. And, at the moment it’s happening, we’re actually okay with that! In fact, there’s no place in the world we’d rather be.

As I am writing this, I am realizing that my ex worked very, very hard at trauma bonding. In fact, he was a Master at it, subjecting me to silent treatments (two weeks on/two weeks off) like clockwork, for months at a time, and with no explanation at all. In addition, from mid-October to mid-January every year for 13 years he made like Houdini and fell completely off the grid.  And right before leaving, he’d ramp up the chaos, making me feel horribly anxious and angry yet desperate for his attention. But I was addicted to it and he knew it.  Wayne knew exactly what he was doing!

Our addiction to the narcissistic chaos and then to the reprieve also explains why we find it so hard to maintain No Contact and/or to move on into new relationships after it’s over. No one excites us in quite the same way or with the same intensity as a toxic partner. Via trauma bonding, we become the suffering and the suffering becomes us. We forget what normalcy feels like. We stop differentiating between good excitement and bad excitement. The chaos and turmoil becomes almost as big a turn-on for us as it does for the N.

If we look back on or inward on (if we’re still in it) our relationship, we see that at the moment the Idolize Phase ends, the trauma bonding began. We may not have even known this but you can be sure that the narcissist did. As time passed and the narcissistic partner became more successful at managing down our expectations of the relationship, our connection to the nonsense began to stick like super glue. But now that we know it….that there is a name for that strange hold this bizarre person had over us..we can make sure it never happens to us again. If we’re still in the relationship, then we can get out (and fast!) because, unlike a hostage victim who trauma bonds with a kidnapper, we are NOT being held at gunpoint and we CAN escape. Let us be grateful for that fact and do what we need to do to save our sanity.

(Visited 82,839 times, 9 visits today)

139 Comments

  • Mary

    May 9, 2017 at 3:45 am Reply

    I am 18, and i recently got out of a relationship where i feel my person was a
    Narcissist. We were together for almost 3 years, and everything was my fault. He blamed me for everything, he had a complete obsession with having friends even though they really didnt like him they used him. And i tried to tell him, but when i did i became “possessive” and to him it was because i was obsessed with him and i didn’t want him having friends. At the end of our relationship he told me he knew he was emotionally abusing me but he couldn’t stop. And he told me he wasnt a mean person, just to me he was. So after the break up, he blocked me. And has no contact within the past two weeks. And its been so awful for me, because im trying to understand. But he is out partying and not caring at all.

  • Chelsea Sims

    April 26, 2017 at 9:23 am Reply

    I have just read this and have tears in my eyes from how much I relate to it. I’m married to a wonderful man and I fail to connect because the narcissist has ruined me. He still comes and goes and i feel powerless to him. The worst part is the sexual attraction I have for him….I can’t find that with my husband and it hurts. I struggle to let go of the narcissist in all forms. It’s been 8 years, he was my first love, first physical connection. My heart aches when he leaves after all the things he confirms from the past. He tells me I was the only one, that he only loved me, that he messed up and wants me, that I’m special to him, that we have a connection unlike anyone else. Then when he pulls away and i confront him he snaps, acts out and then blocks me. The sad part is that I’m always the one to contact him. I’m hurting so badly to write this. I want to break free from his hold and enjoy my marriage

    • Zari Ballard

      May 7, 2017 at 11:55 am Reply

      Hi Chelsea,

      If it’s any consolation, I speak with so many women in your EXACT situation. You are not alone and you can get your head back to normal so that you can enjoy (and feel fulfilled) in your marriage. It’s all about changing your perspective about this person who is hurting you…see him for what he is and finally letting the bullshit go. Consider booking some talk time with me if you can and I will see you through it. You have someone in your life who loves you and you have to stay in it. A good partner is far and few between, I am afraid, so feel motivated and positive. The narc will only bring you unhappiness. I hope that we can speak sometime…I would be happy to help:)

      Zari xo

Share your thoughts & get advice! Only first post is moderated.

Optimization WordPress Plugins & Solutions by W3 EDGE
Get Zari's Book
Read more:
Narcissists & The Soul Mate Effect

In a relationship, a narcissist will use a variety of emotional manipulation tactics to hook, re-hook, and then string-along his partner. One of the most effective of these tactics is...

Close